NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The coronavirus pandemic caught New York and the country off guard, but one hospital in the Bronx is being recognized for helping prepare the city and the military to respond to the crisis.

Janice Halloran is in charge of emergence preparedness at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

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“My role is basically to make this hospital prepared for any disaster,” she told CBS2’s Ali Bauman. “We have built this hospital into an ICU hospital to deal with the COVID onslaught.”

But how do you prepare for an unprecedented pandemic?

“You have to make sure that your hospital can be at capacity at all times and function optimally,” Halloran said.


Back in September, when COVID-19 wasn’t even a conversation, Halloran brought in the U.S. Army for a disaster drill, practicing how the hospital and army would work together in an emergency to set up triage tents and provide medical surge capacity in order to quickly respond to a sudden influx of patients.

“We forced them to sort of do what they normally do in an environment they’re extremely uncomfortable with and unfamiliar with … so the realism is, how do you come to, let’s say, a New York City hospital and set up to assist for a hazmat incident in now a confined space?” Halloran said. “They now have practiced this robustly so that in an event like this, they can now be deployed and say, ‘We’ve done this already.'”

Fast forward six months to March and the Army is deployed to hospitals all around the country, including Jacobi, to assist with coronavirus patients.

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This week, the U.S. Department of Defense sent a thank you letter to Halloran.

“To say, I just wanted you to know because we drilled with you guys back in September, it gave us such preparation for what we’re being deployed to do now,” she said. “We reach far beyond the Bronx, and that’s truly a proud moment.”

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New York is by no means out of the woods with this pandemic.

“Working seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day because there’s so much that needs to be done without sort of a light at the end of the tunnel is extremely exhausting and emotionally draining,” Halloran said.

But after these devastating weeks in the hospital, little recognition goes a long way.

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“Our little success stories are what keeps us all going,” Halloran said.